Holidays in Alicante

Christmas and Reyes are now over.  The weather here is still quite nice (haven’t worn a jacket during the day since ‘Nam).  It’s almost always sunny and no one can complain about that. One could complain, however, about the amounts of studying I need to be doing and the paper writing that needs to be completed in the next few weeks.  But after finals in two weeks, I’ll be heading off to Belgium for a week to desconectarme and to just relax.

Christmas this year was probably the most Spanish I could have ever imagined. Continue reading

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A new definition of home

This weekend I took a long-needed trip to Madrid, back “home.” Madrid was decorated in its finest holiday clothes: Enormous lighted Christmas trees, streets with strings of fantastic lights in the shapes of cubes, snowflakes, and other random squiggles and swirls, the people bundled in large jackets and warm black scarves, the faces of stores painted in “Feliz Navidad” and lines after lines behind the stores selling either lottery tickets or roasted chestnuts. Just how Madrid is supposed to be at Christmas time. Continue reading

The Ups and Downs of Life in Barcelona

It has been a very long time since I’ve written. This is probably the longest break I’ve taken from this blog. I have legitimate reasons for my long absence in the blogosphere. It’s this awful thing called Graduate School.

I came to Barcelona to pursue my career and to take off with an international career. So that’s what I’ve been doing. My studies have been very overwhelming and much more intense than I expected (having worked in the Spanish education realm for two years, I was expecting this to be a cake-walk…boy was I wrong!) But apart from the normal life of studying and taking exams and all of that stuff we hate, there are other elements of my life that are being severely impacted. Continue reading

Life in another “country”

Life here is finally starting to be complete. I am no longer waiting for classes to start, waiting to hear back about English classes, waiting for information about my internship, it’s all over. Now, everything has begun. I’ve given my first private English lesson, I’ve started classes at the university, and my internship is going great.

Yet it’s living in a different “country” that seems to be the only thing that is difficult for me.
When you try your hardest for so long to become fluent and culturally acceptable in one place and you pick everything up to start anew in a different region of that same country, but suddenly everyone there hates where you come from, it’s a little difficult to feel like you’re at home. Continue reading

American Me

Home: [hohm] homed, hom·ing. Noun: the place or region where something is native or most common.

The longest flight of my life is always the one returning home. Back to Denver, Colorado where I’ve got everything: best friends, family, amazing spicy food, and my life left behind.  I was picked up for the second year in a row by my best friends. Our first destination was Chipotle because it’s the one restaurant I crave for out here in Spain. Then straight to the drinking: whiskey shots and PBR beer. Continue reading

Moving on and moving forward

My last two blog posts were rushed and even a bit forced. I’ve looked back upon them and I’ll leave them as they stand, but they really represent a lack of thought and time. The reason for this is because I had been traveling a lot, the hot summer heat was taking it’s toll, and I was growing anxious about the future that I just couldn’t bring myself to concentrate. However, I’ll leave them there as some sort of testament to what was happening. I’ve also neglected to write about my trip to Barcelona and Italy, and now, it’s been several weeks, and I’ve returned to the United States that I see no point writing about them (at least in depth).

However, something needs to be said. I’ve left my blog inactive for too long.

First, I am all set up in Barcelona. I spent four days energetically searching for the best flat I could find for my new future there.  I stayed with my co-worker Sarah’s friend, Michelle, for the second time and she has been so much help I cannot let it go unmentioned. After seeing about fifteen different apartments, I had narrowed them all down to two (it was easy weeding out the rest, but I was really torn between two great places). But I know I made the right decision in the end: after calling up the guys that I’m going to be living with, I went over to my future home my last morning in Barcelona (10 am mind you) to pick up my contract and pay the rent, etc., I found the guys sitting in the living room already with beers cracked open.

This tells to me two things: 1) that it’s going to be impossible to study in my new house (but that’s alright because I never study at home anyway); and 2) that I have definitely made the right decision.

I’ll be living with three seemingly chill and fun guys from Alicante (Bachelor pad, anyone?!) and that makes me stoked: Barcelona is a very, very international city. And by that, I mean everywhere you go, English is spoken. It’s not like Madrid where even in the tourist areas, people speak to you first in Spanish, and then if they realize you don’t understand, they will hit you up in English. It’s not like that in Barcelona; they just immediately speak to you in English. That makes me nervous that I won’t be using my Spanish there. But now that I’ve got a flat with Spanish guys, I know that I’ll be surrounding myself in a Spanish community away from all the tourists.  Not to mention that I’m going to a Spanish school, so I’m sure to be completely immersed in Spanish and far from the language of the tourists.

I’m also afraid that I’m going to like Barcelona more than Madrid, which is difficult for me to even write because Madrid has been the center of my life since I can even remember. It’s always been Madrid, Madrid, Madrid. And now I’m a traitor. But Barcelona has so much to offer me, other than the school I have chosen because I think it’s the best option for me. The entire city is littered with skateboarders, there are skate-punk bars with old fish-tail skateboards hanging on the walls.  There is a beach. Oh goodness, there is a beach! I’ve never lived with the beach before and I will certainly be taking advantage of that as much as possible. Not to mention that Barcelona is absolutely stunning, especially with the Gaudí architecture that covers the city. To say the least, I can’t wait to get there and take the next step of my Spanish adventure.

Skateboarders in Barcelona

After my quick but productive trip to Barcelona, I flew out to Brescia, Italy for Carlo’s university graduation.

Carlo graduating!

It was my last weekend in Europe before flying home and then making my new move to Barcelona and it was incredible. I spent it with my best friends (even Chloé flew out from Brussels for it!), Carlo, and his friends and family. Again, I owe his family everything for their incredible hospitality. We spent the days eating and relaxing and riding bikes through the Italian countryside; and we spent our nights out on the town.

Chloé, going for a ride in Carlo’s sweet luxury car

I quickly realized that Italian is similar enough to Spanish, and after having lived with Carlo for the past year and a half, I quickly picked up on Italian. It makes me a bit disappointed that I didn’t choose to study that this year instead of French, because I can make out almost every word spoken in Italy (whether I understand the words meaning is another issue), but in French, all I hear is an unintelligible chain of vous-vous’s and je-je’s.  So naturally, I’m now highly inclined to learning Italian since after only four short days, I was picking up verbs and expressions and it felt invigorating communicating in a third language, basing it off of my second. I’m not saying I can really speak Italian, but it’s pretty easy to start to see the differences and similarities between Spanish and Italian.  Anyway, at the end of the trip, we all returned to Madrid for one last night. I said my goodbyes to Julian, Beltran, Carlo, and La Martola, and the following morning, I caught my flight back to the good old US of A.

Being home has certainly been interesting. At first it’s been pretty difficult to manage my world once again in English. Now I’ve got the flow back, but maybe I’m losing my Spanish as my natural English flow returns to me. Nah! I have met several Spaniards here (go figure!) and I definitely still got it. Being at home is really great seeing my friends and of course my family, but I miss Europe already.

Here’s why I have to go back:

The environment, my world: There I speak several languages. I know people from all over the world. I have places to stay in about 10 different countries. The countries themselves are so close and travel is so easy and cheap that I just can’t give it up. I love travelling around and visiting friends. I miss going to see Chloé in Brussels and drinking Belgium’s amazing beers. I miss Italy and Carlo’s mother’s kitchen that seems to always be active making incredible Italian dishes that still make me salivate just thinking about them. I miss all the guys in Madrid and eating Shawarma kebabs from the Lebanese guy’s bar right next to my old flat with Marta. I miss all the botellones (plaza parties), all the Chinese people wandering the streets selling us 1-euro beers, I miss the jamones, I miss the buildings and the streets and the history. I miss being a foreigner; it’s difficult, especially in Spain with their massive amounts of impossible and frustrating red tape, but it’s worth it.

If I go home now, it’s almost as if it was all for nothing. That’s really unfair for me to say because it has certainly not been for nothing, but now I’ve got Europe figured out and I speak two (and a little more) languages and if I go home, that’s all going to be lost. So I am returning. And it’s to make myself a marketable international citizen. I’m going to school to learn all the things I need to know to start my career there or wherever, but it’s going get me somewhere where I can use all these new skills I have acquired living in Madrid for two years. It’s not going to be easy (especially considering I still have no job in Barcelona), but I can’t wait to close my eyes, jump in head first and when I come up, see what it’s like on the other side.

Write more later,

Graham

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Life Update #9

I haven’t posted anything in such a long time because quite frankly there hasn’t been anything too out of the ordinary worthy of posting.

However, I feel that it’s time to put you all up to date.

First, I’ve been accepted to study at the CEU San Pablo University here in Madrid.

But I’m not going.

Second, I’ve been accepted to the University of Kent in Brussels, which was a huge deal for me to be accepted, but after having gone to visit last Wednesday…

I’m not going there either.

The reasons are such: The University here in Madrid is supposedly for rich pijo kids from Madrid and everyone tells me that the school is a place to slack off. It’s pretty expensive (in European terms) and I’m sure the education is just fine, it just doesn’t seem to be the right fit for me.

As for the University in Brussels, I’m pretty disappointed that that isn’t going to work out for me. I was really stoked at the prospect of studying in a country that isn’t Spain and I really wanted to learn French. Also, Brussels is the European capital which means that there are tons of great networking opportunities and potential job opportunities in international fields. I will be turning there after I get my master’s because I feel that that will be a great place for me to find a job, but after visiting the school, I saw that the entire student population is all Americans. I was hoping for a diverse program with other internationals so that I could meet people from all of the world and get great contacts. The last thing I wanted was a classroom full of Americans. It’s not that I have a problem with Americans, it’s just that living here, I’ve made a full effort of staying away from them in order to meet other people. Like I always say, if I want Americans, I should just move home.

So I’ve also applied to one other school in Barcelona and I’ve got my hopes on it, but it still hasn’t accepted me. We should find out any day now…

Also, next week I’ll be taking a trip around Europe with my good buddy Angel. We are going to spend three-four days in Amsterdam, five-six days in Berlin, and then two-three days in Krakow.

I’m incredibly excited for this trip not only because well, who wouldn’t be? But also it’s going to be of personal value to me. The first being Amsterdam. I am Dutch-American. Well that is to say that the Croesen family moved to the United States in the middle of the 1600s, so that doesn’t necessarily make me Dutch, but my grandfather does have the plaque to prove that we are original Dutch-American settlers.

Second, we’ll be dong a complete World War II tour of Europe. Starting in Amsterdam, we’ll be visiting Anne Frank’s attic. I hear that it is done in a way that won’t make you depressed, but I remember that as a kid, I became really attach to her person when I read her diary, so I’m expecting something powerful.

Then, Berlin would be the obvious, we’ll be able to visit all the museums and memorials and get lost in divided East/West Berlin.

From there, we’ll see Krakow which is one hour away from Auschwitz. Angel said he’d like to see that as well, so hopefully we have time to make it there, but I know that will be far from uplifting.

Furthermore, we just had to say our farewells to one of our roommates, Erika. She unfortunately had to move back to Italy because, due to the crisis, she was unable to find a job.  I really hate to see her go. We will sincerely miss her! Saying goodbye to roommates is my least favorite thing because we all get so attached.  On another note, I just lost a friend to the Big Apple today. My really good buddy Luis just caught a plane to go live in New York to work on a magazine for the next three months or so! I’ll miss him a ton but I wish him the best of luck!  (I also told him it was mandatory that he eat at Chipotle at least once haha).

As for this summer, I’ve applied for a position at an English speaking summer camp on the beach in Malaga. The mother of one of the families that I give clases particulares to put in a great word for me, so I’m sure I’d be hired instantly (at least that’s what the email said). I just have to wait until they know how many students they’ll have and then the number of teachers they’ll need.

Also there’s the possibility that my family will come out. Couldn’t be more excited for that!

Everything else in Madrid is going smoothly and normal. It’s just routine now. I’m getting ready for a change. If I don’t teach next year, great. I would really like to get my Master’s so I can find a “real job” but if it doesn’t work out, getting TEFL certified and moving somewhere else doesn’t sound too bad either.

Furthermore, I’ve been continuing with my studies of French and I absolutely love it. My French teacher, Valentin, is the coolest guy ever and he shreds at Jazz Manouche guitar. The language is proving to be pretty challenging but I’m loving it as much as I loved learning Spanish. It looks like I’ll be dedicating a lot more time to learning French as it’s slowly becoming something that I feel really excited and passionate about. It makes me wonder if I loved learning Spanish because it’s Spanish or if I just love learning languages, because speaking in French now gives me the same butterflies that Spanish did when I was first learning that. Who knows?

Anyway, off to enjoy this nice Sunday morning,

Graham